Get Outside, Georgia!

Wildflower excitement at Don Carter State Park



There’s no doubt about it: Georgia has some of the best state parks you’ll find!

That makes it even more exciting when a new state park opens, and Georgia’s newest is Don Carter State Park on Lake Lanier. This 1,316-acre park, the first state park to be located on Lake Lanier, is named in honor of Don Carter, a real estate executive who served on the Georgia Department of Natural Resources board for almost 30 years and whose efforts led to the park’s eventual creation.

What awaits you at Don Carter? Everything from fishing and boat ramps to hiking, swimming, camping (RV and walk-in tent sites are available), hillside cottages, and more. The park also features four picnic shelters, plus seasonal rentals of kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and aquacycles.

You should never need an excuse to visit one of Georgia’s state parks, but if you do here’s a great reason to check out Don Carter State Park this very weekend.

Why this weekend? Because this Saturday, May 6, at 10 a.m., Don Carter State Park will be offering a guided hike to look for one of Georgia’s most intriguing wildflowers – the Pink Lady’s Slipper, a wild orchid that’s native to this part of the state.

The United States Department of Agriculture website describes it as a “large, showy wildflower,” but that hardly does it justice. The plant blooms for only a very brief period in late spring, brightening the woods with spectacular flowers that almost seem to glow in shades of light pink to magenta. It can live for over 20 years.

This hike, which will be led by naturalist David Guzman, will begin at the park’s visitor center.

During your adventure, you’ll learn about the Pink Lady Slipper’s natural history, about its role in the environment, and about its medicinal uses over the years.

What makes this such a great weekend to look for these flowers?

“This orchid only blooms for a couple of weeks a year,” Guzman said, adding that he spotted a few flowers last week. That means that this weekend should be prime time for finding the plant in bloom.

The hike is not strenuous, Guzman added, though he noted that it will take you off the trail and into the woods. He recommends wearing closed-toe shoes and also bringing bug repellant as well as water.

And don’t forget to bring your camera since the hike includes time for making photos of the flowers that are found.

Except for the $5 state park parking fee, there is no charge for participating in the guided hike. However, you should call the park at 678-450-7726 to register. For more info, visit gastateparks/doncarter.

Don Carter State Park is located northeast of Gainesville at 5000 North Browning Bridge Road, on the north side of Lake Lanier.

From Clarks Bridge Road, go south on North Browning Bridge Road. At the “Y,” take the left fork and continue for one-half mile to the park. The GPS coordinates are N 34.3876220 and W -83.7464620.

I hope you get to take advantage of this unique opportunity. Let me know what you find!

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